Unlike what you can see in the media, Iran is one of the friendliest countries I’ve ever visited. From friendly people, incredible architecture, amazing beaches, to vibrant cities and mystic deserts. Did you know that Iran hosts nineteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites? There’s so much to see that even if you spend a month traveling around the country, you won’t see everything that the country has to offer. Because Iran has it all. If you plan to travel to Iran, here are my best tips. Good Travel By Good-travel.ir
In 2017 I traveled to Iran independently, on my own. It’s a fascinating country, very different from how media portrays it. While I was able to travel around the country on my own due to my EU passport, even if you’re from the UK or US and require to do an organized tour you could hire a guide and create your own itinerary. So not all is lost!
Many blogs are blocked in Iran, so if your VPN isn’t working for some reason you won’t be able to access the article again. Fortunately, my website isn’t blocked, so you can access my articles when you’re already in Iran as well.
Tips for Traveling to Iran & Things to Know Before You Go
(updated for 2018)
۱. Iranians aren’t Arabs
One of the most important things to remember is that Iranians aren’t Arabs, they’re Persian. They speak Farsi (and other dialects), not Arabic, and some people might feel offended if you great them with Arabic words.
[irp posts=”2794″ name=”Mashhad , The second holiest city in the world”]
Since the Arab invasion of Iran, Farsi has been written in Arabic letters with slight differences.While a lot of Arabic words have made it to the Persian dictionary, it doesn’t mean that an Arab can understand Farsi or the other way around.
۲. What’s the best time to travel to Iran?
Iran is a big country, so temperatures differ. For instance, when I was visiting Iran in late March it was freezing cold in Tabriz and Tehran, but very warm in Esfahan.
During the summer, temperatures frequently break into the 40’s (C), so it might not be the best time to visit. Especially since you need to be covered up head to toes.
I’d say that the best time to visit Iran is spring (late February – late May).
The worst time to travel is the 2-week long Iranian New Year holidays called Navroz (for 2018: 21st March – ۴th April) . I was actually in Iran during these holidays and it was, in fact, the worst time to visit. You won’t be able to stay with many locals as everyone is visiting families and many places are closed.
۳. Iranian don’t hate Americans
One of the biggest myths in the Western Media is that Iranians hate Americans. I only encountered one posted at a mosque in Tehran. But after a few conversations with people around the mosque, I quickly realized that they all agreed that some group of weirdos put it there and noone really thinks that.
I had endless conversations about it with many locals and none of them expressed any hate towards Americans. In fact, American movies were shown on a local bus and people love to drink Coca-Cola.
۴. Iran is a great place for backpacking
Many people don’t consider a country like Iran to be good for backpacking. But they’re wrong. Iran is the ultimate backpacking destination. Iran is cheap, it has hostels in major tourist places, cheap hotels and guesthouses in others, comfortable buses, and friendly locals. What more can you want when you backpack…?
[irp posts=”2191″ name=”Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square – Top choice square in Esfahan”]
I’m usually not a fan of backpacking and hostels. But backpacking in Iran is different than in some other popular places. Travelers were more mature, interested in different cultures, and not just in partying and taking usual selfies in the morning. I might be biased, but when I backpacked in other places I was rarely able to find people who wanted to join me for a trip to the museum. Not in Iran.
۵. How much money do I need for Iran?
Iran is a country that offers great value for money, even more so these days. But money is one thing you really need to plan on if you’re going to Iran, as foreign card won’t work in any ATM and you cannot pay by card. Similar to Cuba, Iran is a cash country.
Bring EUROS, not US Dollars. Many websites and travel blogs will tell you to bring only Dollars. Thankfully, I had Euros too. Dollars were very unwanted (I imagine after Trump’s travel ban). While some people still accepted them, it wasn’t easy.
I spent approximately $۲۰-۴۰ per day while traveling solo and with a friend, I met on my first day. It wasn’t an extreme budget trip and we weren’t restricting ourselves. I recommend planning on bringing more, just to be safe. This will allow you to book a double room in a budget hotel, local meals, taxis and taking buses everywhere.
Remember that Iran has beautiful Persian carpets and you might want to buy one. My friend and I both bought carpets, so I was happy that I had some spare cash with me. Prices for a rug range between $100-800 depending on the size.
NOTE: Iran recently introduced a special pre-paid debit cards for foreign travelers called Mah Card. It’s a great solution for those who don’t want to carry too much cash around. You can sign up online and they’ll meet you at your hotel upon arrival, issue your card and deposit your foreign currency into your Mah Card.
۶. Currency is very confusing
Rial is the official currency, but all prices are in Toman. It gets a bit confusing and you’ll most likely get a real hang of it right before you leave.
۱ toman = 10 rials
But it’s not just that simple. If someone asks you for 20 it means you need to pay 200 rials, but I also encountered 20 meaning 20,000 as they just don’t want to deal with zeros.
۷. You can get Iran visa at the airport
If you’re worried about the hassle of getting a visa to Iran, fear not! Citizens of many countries are eligible for a visa on arrival for up to 30 days. See rules and documents required in my other post.
If you’re illegible to travel around Iran on your own, you can consider taking the Discover Persia 14-day G Adventures tour, which I’ve heard good things about. The tour doesn’t chaperone you 24/7 and you’ll have some free time, so even if you’re not a group trip person, you’ll be fine. Check here for the latest Discover Persia tour prices and itinerary.
Another option would be Iran tours from Intrepid. They have a few options available, so check the latest dates and prices here.
You won’t be granted a visa without a valid travel insurance. And in case you’re wondering EU insurance cards won’t work, as they do check whether your policy is actually valid for Iran. While you can technically buy an insurance at the airport, you’ll have to stand in another line to do so. This is why I recommend World Nomads Insurance. It’s valid for Iran and it’s reliable.
۸. Iran is safe
Apart from what media portrays Iran is safe. I actually felt safer in Iran than during my last visit in NYC. Also, once you meet some friendly Iranian (read: within 10 minutes of your walk outside of the hotel), they’ll make sure that you as a foreigner have everything you need.
I never encountered people being so helpful anywhere else in the world.
Random strangers will get off the metro with you at the wrong station for them to show you the right way. They’ll escort you to your seat on the bus to make sure that you find everything right and don’t miss it. They’ll guard your stuff too.
I only felt unsafe once, in Esfahan at night, but nothing happened.
۹. Crossing the road is probably the most dangerous in Iran
Crossing the road in Iran is terrifying. Seriously, I’d never want to drive in Iran as traffic rules seem to be some sort of general guidelines. If you want to cross the street, whether it’s a crosswalk or elsewhere, you need to just start walking and pray that the cars will stop. If you’re going to wait till cars stop you might as well be waiting until next year, as they’ll never stop before you’re actually half way through. Your best bet is to maintain eye contact and look like you know what you’re doing.
۱۰. Be prepared for some crazy drivers
You might get a head attack in a taxi, as Iranian drivers are crazy. So don’t even attempt to drive yourself, even if your new friends offer. I mean, just take a look at this photo below proving that it’s totally fine to stop in the middle of the round-about to have a chat…